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Anon Early Career Peep

I've heard people say that one shouldn't spend time working on encyclopedia entries as a junior faculty member (even SEP), because 1) it takes a ridiculous amount of time, and 2) it plays little to no role in tenure decisions. Do you have information to the contrary? Would love to know. Thanks! And good luck!

Mark Alfano

Thanks for the question, which is a fair one. This article has taken quite a bit of time (about a year now, and still not quite done). I don't know about tenure decisions, but I'd guess that depends on one's institution. At University of Oregon, where I'll be up for tenure in a few years, I don't think this will be completely discounted.

One thing that SEP articles in particular seem to be good for is gaining some name recognition. If you're the editor of the relevant category at philpapers.org (which I also think is useful), that won't get people to remember your name. But if your SEP article is something people end up going to for info or sending their students to, then it could help you down the line.

So, I guess my basic answer is: it depends on what you want to get out of it. If you're on the brink of a tenure decision, then writing an encyclopedia article -- even an SEP article -- is probably not prudent. If you feel pretty confident in the research portion of your tenure file, it might be worthwhile to work on something like this.

I should also mention that I'm under contract to write a textbook on moral psychology (probably also not an ideal career move, but whatever), and I've found the background reading for this SEP article helpful for that. The takeaway there, I guess, is that if it fits nicely into other stuff you're doing, then the time you spend on it might also count as time spent on other things.

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